Aberdeen’s excellent performance in the 1st leg of their UEFA Europa League qualifying match was in stark contrast to what we have come to expect from Scottish clubs in the early stages of European football. Last season, Hibernian suffered the ignominy of a 9-0 aggregate defeat to Swedish club Malmö FF in the second qualifying round of the Europa League. Perth side, St Johnstone fared slightly better, advancing to the third round where they were knocked out on penalties by the Belarussian team FC Minsk. Motherwell also excited the competition at this stage, comfortably defeated by Kuban Krasnodar.
A common theme in these defeats was the structure of their opponent’s domestic leagues. Although the Russian Premier League has recently changed its structure to adopt the familiar Autumn to Spring season, both the Allsvenskan (Sweden) and the Belarusian Premier League run throughout the summer months; arguably giving them an edge in the early stages of European competition over teams from leagues such as Scotland.
The topic of summer football in Scotland has been a long-debated one. Would the benefits outweigh the negatives in breaking the tradition of an autumn to spring season? One could argue that due to the relatively small status of domestic Scottish football, the biennial international tournaments would not affect club sides in terms of releasing their players. Scottish women’s football changed to a summer schedule over four years ago and has resulted in an increase in interest and attendances. It has also led to a dramatic drop in matches being postponed due to poor weather conditions.
Another factor that may have been overlooked is how a summer league would affect the SPFL’s ability to maximise their broadcast revenue. By adopting a spring to autumn league schedule, the SPFL would be able to present a far more lucrative product due to avoiding clashes with major European leagues, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. By shifting away from the months dominated by their far more attractive neighbours, Scottish football could carve out a niche for itself by attracting football supporters suffering from the withdrawal symptoms that plague the non-tournament summer months.
Supporters Direct Scotland has conducted research into the possibility of summer football in Scotland, which you can read here, along with several other issues.